Removing roadblocks to success

The Springboard initiative will give local businesses greater opportunities to secure funding, removing one more barrier to growth, says Tony Moretta, chief executive of Digital Jersey

Tony Moretta, Digital Jersey. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31589593)
Tony Moretta, Digital Jersey. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (31589593)

ONE strand of our work, which we are all passionate about at Digital Jersey, is providing targeted training for local people to ensure all businesses in the Island have the digital skills they need. We do this through our Academy.

It’s a fantastic initiative which is having a very positive impact on businesses and individuals. However, it isn’t enough in the short term to ensure Jersey is keeping ahead of the game in a global digital economy.

It takes time to develop talent and nurture experience. It’s inevitable that we need to bring in skilled people, as well as entrepreneurs, to provide the job opportunities Islanders seek now.

Over the past four years, we have worked with the Government of Jersey to enable our Island’s digital businesses to get straightforward access to the best talent from outside the Island, by supporting them through the work permissions system.

This isn’t a back-door immigration tactic, it’s a calculated, targeted route to ensuring our companies thrive, which, in turn, means our economy thrives.

We screen all applications to ensure these are roles for which we do not have the right talent in the Island.

Without the necessary skills for their businesses, the companies who employ them might either be forced to relocate away from Jersey, or simply be unable to grow and develop.

We would lose valuable economic input and jobs. They also bring another benefit, which is to share their talent and experience with other Islanders.

The businesses we’ve supported in the last few years now employ over 300 Islanders and pay their staff nearly £14 million per year in salaries.

Enabling existing businesses to access the skilled workers they need is just one tactic for growing our economic resilience. Another is to create more successful businesses that will employ Islanders and bring innovation and wealth to Jersey.

Almost a year ago, Digital Jersey signed an agreement with the Government of Jersey to encourage start-ups to the Island, with a view to boosting Jersey’s digital credentials.

It is the culmination of work we have been doing for several years. Since 2018, the start-ups we’ve helped bring to Jersey have paid average salaries of £80,000 and are responsible for £16 million in business turnover.

Start-ups bring innovators, those with fresh perspectives on both new and old problems. They bring businesses which provide employment and individuals who can share their experience and skills with others, and bring value to our society.

One example is Vincent Sider, who recently relocated to Jersey with a software business and marketing consultancy that is also working to help other businesses grow.

Vincent now also lectures in artificial intelligence at the Digital Jersey Academy and is one of our valued Digital Jersey mentors.

Additionally, he’s just joined forces with an Island business to launch another new venture, to help companies assess, hire and train marketing candidates.

This is where that momentum created when start-ups move to Jersey really begins to show, as their entrepreneurial spirit and know-how then helps others to thrive.

In the coming weeks, we will be removing yet another roadblock to success, that of funding, through the launch of our Springboard initiative.

Springboard will give local businesses the opportunity to get investment through rewards-based crowdfunding, which hasn’t been available in Jersey before, and also equity-based investment for larger funding needs.

It will allow local companies to share their ambitions to a wider audience and attract supporters and investors who believe in what they want to achieve.

We will be working with Jersey Business to ensure a wrap-around package of support is also available. I have been delighted by the feedback and, of course, the results of our work-permissions assistance.

I am also really pleased to see our first year of encouraging start-ups to the Island is bearing fruit – despite the pandemic. We are an Island that thrives on innovation and reinvention, a tiny jurisdiction in a global economy, but one which is very definitely continuing to prove that it’s about quality, not quantity, when it comes to skills and businesses.

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